Last summer at a party on Long Island, the largely Manhattan crowd was surprised, but polite, when Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were among the guests.
Some were even more surprised to find themselves dancing with Jarvanka. The ocean air was sweet, the farm-to-table food perfect, the band electric and the dance floor so small it turned proper adults into teenagers at a bar mitzvah, everyone dancing with everyone else. It would have been awkward and impolite to turn away from Jared or Ivanka as they inevitably came your way.
Will that happen this year? For Ivanka and Jared, the most visible and social Trumpists, life is mostly like a summer evening out at Jay Gatsby’s. But a lot has happened since last year, from Charlottesville to the internment at the border of innocents, that tries the soul. It’s engendered a raging debate between establishment Democrats who caution not to go against anyone in Trump land in a Trump-like way (Nancy Pelosi, David Axelrod, etc.) and activists, frustrated and increasingly furious that nothing is working to stop the president’s immoral actions, who want to accost his enablers wherever they find them (the Maxine Waters way).
Washington is a small town where the social and political mix. Tip O’Neill drank whiskey with Ronald Reagan, avoiding the hateful partisanship that plagues the capital now. By day, friends of the Johnson daughters would chant outside the White House, "Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” and the next go bowling with them in the basement lanes.
In the midst of our own asymmetrical war, it’s hard to put aside the sound of toddler sobbing and throw back a drink. If Democrats go low, Trump and his minions justify going even lower. Responding in kind is no more effective than having a tantrum because your 3-year-old has thrown one. A former staffer says Trump is the meanest, coldest person he’s ever met. Michael Cohen may soon conclude the same.
It’s unfortunate but Democrats may have to bring a knife to a gun fight. If one of them shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, they’ll go to prison for life. The current dilemma over tactics started with a few protestors and diners booing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who mystifyingly, or defiantly, ate at a Mexican restaurant. Can’t a cabinet secretary eat a taco in peace after a hard day at the office authorizing the caging of children at the Mexican border?
Then Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave The Red Hen in rural Virginia. On Tuesday night, at a private event at Georgetown University, a group of protesters surrounded the car of Trump accomplice Senator Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who uncharacteristically shouted back. In an interview the next day, McConnell complained about all the “anger” and “behavioral issues” in the air, wondering why we can't “have a good old-fashioned argument without losing our temper."
No, Mitch, we can’t all get along. Our tempers are a bit ragged watching the Republican Senators stand mute in the face of the president’s reckless, unconstitutional behavior. As for Ivanka and Jared, there were high hopes when they gave up their storied life on the Upper East Side for Washington they would provide the much-needed civilizing influence, helping Dad pivot from casino boss and real estate developer to leader of the Free World.
Hardly. We’re still waiting for a modicum of adult behavior much less statesmanship. Rather than be the brake on Trump’s worst impulses, they’ve proceeded to enrich themselves privately, using the levers of power that come with a White House title to collect $82 million in income, trademarks, loans and who knows what else while doing nothing for the public.
The usually silent First Lady was more vocal about the crisis at the border than Ivanka was. The First Daughter was so oblivious to the heartbreak her father’s actions were causing that she posted a picture of herself happily holding her own baby up in the air while others were losing theirs.
They merit opprobrium, but too much or the wrong kind is worse than none at all. Sanders may not deserve a warm welcome at a restaurant, but neither should she be denied her civil rights unless Democrats suddenly feel it’s okay to deny a wedding cake to a groom and a groom. By being embarrassed in front of her family, Sanders goes for many Americans from the worst press secretary ever who puts down reporters who call out Trump’s lies on TV (for their families to see) to a sympathetic figure.
The Red Hen closed down in the face of protests defending Sanders organized by preachers. Just Tuesday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions giggled over lame jokes comparing gated communities to borders cheered by the conservatives he was speaking to. But try calling him out next time he’s seen dining at Central Michel Richard, and he will play the victim of crude Democrats and use it to justify his next heinous act.
Face it: Republicans are better at this than Democrats. The solution is not to be Pelosi standing down, or Waters screaming in someone’s face, but to quietly shun those like the Golden Couple who could say something or do something but don’t. At the Gridiron Dinner, pre-caging children, Ivanka floated around as the center of attention in a designer ballgown so puffed out with crinolines it served as a velvet rope to keep her admirers at arm’s length. Maybe she would stiffen her spine if she were not the belle of the ball.
Should the pair return this summer, they should not be treated in a way that would make headlines but would make clear they’ve sunk to a new level of complicity that can’t be overlooked even on a social occasion. A nod or a stiff arm extended for a handshake to avoid the air kiss. No polite small talk and stay stuck to your chair when the music plays. Make it clear to them, in some quiet dignified way, that the border crisis is a bridge too far.
As for their father and father-in-law who has shown this past week he will cast morality aside to do what he wants, when he wants, despite or because of the consequences, shunning is way too good. Substitute DJT for LBJ and “babies” for “kids” and “lose” for “kill” and chant it every time he ventures outside the safe haven of the White House, the Trump Grill or Mar a Lago. He should not eat lunch in this town again in peace. And by no means ever dance with him.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.